Summer 2014 Newsletter: The Suffolk County Family Court Workshop is a Success

By: Elizabeth Cabral DiPippo, Communications, Probate and Family Court with the assistance of Evelyn Patsos, Esq., Case Manager, Probate and Family Court

In the short time since the first workshop was held on January 16, 2014, the Suffolk County Family Court Workshop for Mothers and for Fathers has helped an impressive number of people.  As more members of the public learn about the workshop through the media or receive brochures from the Suffolk Probate and Family Court and various agencies, the attendance has steadily grown with each additional workshop date. “We de-mystify the process, we explain situations they may encounter, and we discuss the processes they can use to get the best results,” said Caryn Mitchell-Munevar, Professor at New England Law Boston and volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program in Suffolk County.

The Suffolk County Family Court Workshop for Mothers and for Fathers is a pilot program created by Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, Angela M. Ordoñez, to address a need to disseminate information to mothers and fathers in Suffolk County who might otherwise be drifting through the court system confused and frustrated.  It provides an introduction to the judicial process and an opportunity to meet with a volunteer lawyer and representatives from the Department of Revenue, the Department of Children and Families and the Suffolk Probate and Family Court Probation Department.

The workshops allow parents an opportunity to prepare in advance of court hearings. “They come to the courts better prepared and submit stronger pleadings which helps us serve them in a speedy and efficient manner,” said Dominic  Dicenso, Administrative Deputy Assistant for the Suffolk Probate and Family Court. 

The volunteers listen to the concerns of mothers and fathers and provide direction, information or just a non-judgmental ear.  John Laing, of the Department of Children and Families explained, “Guys that come here believe this is going to be supportive, that we are not finding fault or passing judgment. They feel better prepared for court when they leave.” John is also involved in the Jane Doe White Ribbon Event where men take a pledge to end violence against women.  This year the 7th Annual White Ribbon Event was held on March 6th.  As an advocate for families, John is involved in a Fatherhood Summit every year which focuses on positive fatherhood and bringing families together.

The 90-minute workshop for mothers and for fathers is held monthly and is free to Suffolk County residents.   After a brief presentation, individuals who attend the workshop are offered the opportunity to meet with a volunteer lawyer for a 15-minute consultation. No sign- up or pre-registration is required.    The workshops are held at Boston City Hall in the Piemonte room, 5th floor, from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.  Daycare is not provided. 

Feedback from mothers and fathers who have attended a workshop has been very positive.  Individuals indicate that the workshop was easy to get to and comfortable; that the presentation was helpful to their issue, easy to understand, and provided new information; that the handouts were helpful;  and that the workshop, overall,  was a good mix between listening and asking questions, and a good use of time.   Additional feedback included:

"The Workshop was helpful and answered my questions. Speakers were clear and open to questions. Good job."

"The one on one lawyer time was really helpful. Thank you."

"This was great!  A great use of my time.  Information that I could use right away. A snap shot view." 

Elizabeth Cabral DiPippo is the Communications person for the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court and has worked for the Trial Court for more than 16 years. Her primary responsibilities include website management for the Probate and Family Court, Communications, Newsletter editor and Fiscal and Payroll matters.